“Today, with a software update, Apple switched on two highly anticipated features of its popular wearable: The first uses optical sensors to detect irregular heart rhythms on Apple Watch Series 1 and later iterations,” Robbie Gonzalez writes for Wired. “The second enables wearers of Apple Watch Series 4 to record an electrocardiogram, or ECG, directly from their wrist.”

“The features are the most ambitious to date in Apple’s growing suite of health-monitoring tools—but they are noteworthy also for producing a palpable tension in the healthcare community,” Gonzalez writes. “Some experts say the Apple Watch’s arrhythmia notifications and ECG have enormous potential to benefit public health. But those same experts also express caution and concern.”

“Apple Watch’s new features are designed to help users spot signs of an irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation — AFib, for short,” Gonzalez writes. “‘Apple has essentially gotten out ahead of where medicine is,’ says Greg Marcus, a cardiac electrophysiologist and the chief of cardiology research at the University of California, San Francisco… ‘The main concerns are that people will be unduly alarmed, anxious, and seek medical attention and treatments they don’t need,’ says Marcus.”

“In a large, generally healthy population, even accurate diagnostic tests can produce relatively large numbers of false positive results, which can frighten patients and overwhelm healthcare systems,” Gonzalez writes. “To complicate things further, it’s not clear what benefits will come from screening with the Apple Watch. “We don’t know what to do in an otherwise healthy 65-year-old who experiences one brief episode of AFib a year, let alone a healthy 30- or 40-year-old,” says [cardiac electrophysiologist Rod Passman, director of the Center for Atrial Fibrillation at Northwestern Memorial Hospital].”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The edge cases that D. Passman describes notwithstanding, as we wrote back in September: “We bet that millions with undiagnosed AFib far outnumber hypochondriacs, but, even if they didn’t, the lives saved plus the research potential of having millions of people contributing ECG information to medical studies (with Apple, it’s always opt-in, of course) will far outweigh some unnecessary checkups.”

SEE ALSO:
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